Chemical fire from ammonium nitrate, zinc and sodium chloride

Light a fire without matches and lighters, use only chemistry!

Scientific name: Ignition of paper due to the reaction between ammonium nitrate, zinc shavings and sodium chloride


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"Negative X" fire starts with water (Zinc, Ammonium nitrate and Sodium chloride)

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Ammonium Nitrate and Zinc (Chemical Fire)

by S. Ratana Sorn

"Negative X" - Zinc / Ammonium Nitrate / Ammonium Chloride

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Use protective goggles and keep a safe distance.There is a fire risk - a fire extinguisher should be ready.

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Reaction formula

NH4NO3 -[Cl-]→ N2O + 2H2O

Zn + NH4NO3 → N2 + ZnO + 2H2O

Step-by-step instruction

  1. Take a refractory plate and place a small piece of paper in the center of it.
  2. Prepare a mixture of 4 g of ammonium nitrate and 1 g of sodium chloride. All components must be thoroughly ground.
  3. Put the mixture of ammonium nitrate and sodium chloride on the piece of paper on the plate.
  4. Add thereto 10 g of zinc powder or zinc shavings. Mix the components.
  5. To start the reaction, add a few drops of water.

Scientific background

Ammonium nitrate is an effective oxidizer, zinc is a reducing agent. But nothing happens if we mix these substances. However, if we add sodium chloride to the ammonium nitrate and add water, the following catalytic decomposition reaction will begin:

NH4NO3 -[Cl-]→ N2O + 2H2O

Here Cl--ions are catalysts of the decomposition reaction. The addition of water is very important. The decomposition reaction is exothermic, i.e. the mixture is heated in the reaction. Upon heating the remaining ammonium nitrate melts and melted ammonium nitrate reacts with zinc:

Zn + NH4NO3 → N2 + ZnO + 2H2O

This reaction is very exothermic too. As a result, the paper ignites.


Published on 26 March 2015

  • Fire
  • Heating with fire
  • Explosion
  • Poisoned gas
  • Organic
  • Electricity
  • Solution
  • Oxidation reduction
  • Color change
  • Precipitate
  • Gassing
  • Catalyst